As the next part in our global leaders series, we sat down with Brenda Sooter. Brenda is one of the leaders behind #GiveNowNewton in Newton, Kansas. Here’s what she had to say about her experience so far championing #GiveNowNewton.
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from, and how did you get involved with the social good world?
Brenda: I am a homegrown girl from Kansas. I was an education major in college and I taught in the public school system for fifteen years. Then I started to teach health education programming for a local museum where I learned alot about capital campaigns and fundraising, and an opportunity came up to work at the Central Kansas Community Foundation in Newton, Kansas. I am the program officer and I oversee the grant cycles that we have which total about $22 million in funding.
Q: What inspired you to get involved in #GivingTuesday?
Brenda: Our director has been involved since the beginning. She started it here and in 2017 I went to Baltimore for the #GivingTuesday Community Leaders Summit which really inspired me and got me more on board. And now we’ve been championing it for the last four years at the Central Kansas Community Foundation and I am leading our efforts.
Q: What has worked well for #GivingTuesday in Newton so far?
Brenda: The best thing that I think has happened has been bringing our organizations together and having that time to discuss what everyone’s doing, challenges, opportunities and how we can best support our nonprofits. Last year we had a speaker come in and talk about how to set up a giving platform or online giving page. Because we’re kind of that central granter in the local space it’s important to take on that leadership role. We’ve seen a lot of our affiliate foundations take on this role too.
Specifically, two years ago all of our nonprofits set up a table at a big gymnasium at a recreation center here in town which worked well. We had high school kids coming in and serving food and another group came in and sang, but the fundraising revenue wasn’t necessarily there. After I went to Baltimore, I learned about how we could focus more on online giving and counting volunteer hours and that has been more successful for us.
We’ve also created a wishbook. We list all of the organisations that want to participate, talk about their mission and needs, and offer different ways to give including contact information.
Q: What challenges have you faced in getting #GivingTuesday in Newton off the ground?
Brenda: Time and resources is really what it comes down to for a lot of our partners.
Q: What's the potential or impact of the movement in Newton?
Brenda: The impact of the movement is to give our Newton residents the proper information about the many projects and programs that support our local residents who struggle with various life situations. We want our community to know what great things are going on in our nonprofits locally, and how people can assist the nonprofits they care about. A lot of times people in our town might think the faith community is taking care of everything, and #GivingTuesday provide a platform that helps to broaden the perspectives in the community and raise awareness for the nonprofit sector.
Q: What is one of your favorite #GivingTuesday stories?
Brenda: An affiliate foundation held a Celebrity Pie Auction raising $7,200 from just 15 donated homemade pies.
Q: What are you most looking forward to for #GivingTuesday 2018?
Brenda: Hosting a new event called Taco Tuesday in our community! We’re excited about promoting operating funds more for our nonprofits. Nobody wants to give to operating funds, but yet they are so important and it’s one of our goals this year to highlight this need.
Q: One of the reasons the #GivingTuesday movement has been so successful globally is because of the vision and leadership of country and community leaders like you, who step up in the name of social good. What does leadership mean to you?
Brenda: Someone that is willing to give their expertise to help someone else. We want to be leaders as the Community Foundation to help others to be successful in the work that they’re doing. We’re trying to be that role model and to also share that leadership role among all of the amazing organisations and enabling them to be the most effective leaders in their communities.
Q: Do you have any advice for leaders thinking about starting a #GivingTuesday movement in their country or city?
Brenda: Start small, don’t make it too large your first year. Gradually add to and change your giving day each year, making it new and fresh for nonprofits and donors. Allow nonprofit leaders to have a voice in the planning by developing a committee to help with the preparation. It is amazing all the wonderful ideas that occur when working together for the same purpose.
Q: What is a quote by one of your favourite leaders?
Brenda: This quote is my favorite because it reflects the importance of hosting #GivingTuesday in our community. “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” - John Quincy Adams